The first high school sport of the fall season is over, and the future is bright for Paonia tennis.
The boys' team competed in the fall while the girls will hit the courts during the spring season. Paonia was home to the combined squad from Hotchkiss and Paonia this year.
While the Eagles were small in number, they were large in heart and enthusiasm, preparing the way for future success on the courts at Apple Valley Park.
Paonia wrapped up its season last Thursday and Friday in the regional match at Canyonview in Grand Junction.
Eagles coach Brian Benson reported that perennial powers Steamboat Springs and Aspen dominated the finals at all positions except No. 1 singles, where Fred Edwards of Durango captured the title.
"We played pigtails at each of our six positions on Thursday morning," Benson said. "We had wins from Enoch Kropp and Nick Cambria at the No. 2 and No. 3 singles."
Both Kropp and Cambria defeated opponents from Cortez in the first round. That set them up for semifinal contests, where Kropp fell to his opponent from Steamboat Springs and Cambria was defeated by Aspen's No. 3 singles player.
"On Friday morning they each played for third place versus Vail Mountain," Benson said. "Enoch lost a tough three-set match and Nick lost in two sets. They both placed fourth."
Benson reported that all of the other Paonia players were defeated in the first round at regionals and were eliminated from further play.
"For the season we basically went .500 with a 5-5-1 dual match record," Benson said. Paonia had two wins each against the junior varsities from Fruita Monument and Grand Junction and also beat Cortez.
The Eagles losses this season came against Vail Mountain (twice), Aspen, Durango and Grand Junction Central.
Senior Luke Yerion went a respectable 7-7 during the season at No. 1 singles. Kropp, a sophomore, led the Eagles with his 10-5 record at No. 2 singles and senior Cambria finished the year 9-5 at No. 3 singles.
At No. 1 doubles, Ethan Eller and Eli Etter battled to a 6-8 mark for the season. The Eagles were young at the other doubles spots but gained valuable experience to build upon.
At No. 2 doubles, Quentin Varner and Zach Sinai posted a 4-10 record while Isaac Van Horn and Logan Smith recorded a 3-10 mark at No. 3 doubles. Paonia was shorthanded and did not have a No. 4 doubles team.
"It was a good season considering some of our inexperience, and being shorthanded by one doubles team was probably the biggest obstacle that we were up against," Benson said. "We're basically a 1A school (even being combined) competing at the 4A level, so it's an unenviable task."
Paonia learned a great deal this season and has a core of players coming back who will keep the Eagles going strong next year.
"The kids enjoy the challenge," Benson said. "And for the most part they really have fun with it, and there's something to be said for that."